Freedom Riders Essay

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In 1962, director of the Congress of Racial Equality, James Farmer and fellow CORE leader Bayard Rustin, resurrected an earlier strategy from the late 1940s that called for blacks to ride segregated trains and buses during interstate travel in the upper South. The earlier protest on wheels had failed miserably when the riders were arrested in North Carolina, convicted, and given month-long sentences doing chain-gang labor. This time, the protesters hoped that they would receive greater support from the federal government and the Justice Department. As the sit-in movement had relied on direct confrontation, so would the Freedom Riders. The group/s approach involved both blacks and whites—The white Freedom Riders would take seats in the back of buses, and black participants would sit in the front, a two-way violation of bus company policy. If ordered to move, both blacks and whites would keep their seats. At every bus stop, blacks would head for the whites-only waiting rooms and try to use the facilities. The strategy assumed that whites would respond violently and that such encounters could not be ignored by the federal government. The first group of Freedom Riders boarded a bus in Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961. Thirteen riders had been recruited. The planned trip would take them through Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and then across the Deep South to Louisiana. The group hoped to reach New Orleans on May 17. Each of the riders knew the dangers involved in participating. The first confrontation took place in a Greyhound bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Seven blacks attempted to enter a whites-only portion of the terminal. One of them, John Lewis, was attacked and beaten as local police watched. Through ... ... middle of paper ... ...e known as the Voter Education Project. It would not require a significant level of confrontation, and the potential for violence would be greatly reduced. In the following years, black votes would indeed help bring about change in American society. The Freedom Riders had placed themselves in harm’s way and risked their lives for the sake of their political cause. They forced white segregationists to express their anger in dramatic ways, providing the civil rights movement with perhaps its highest level of national media attention ever. Pictures of a burned bus in Anniston, Alabama, bruised and battered black college students wounded by white rage, and hundreds of federal marshals protecting the lives of blacks trapped in a Baptist church had managed to convey to those watching the movement from the outside a more powerful message than could be delivered in words.

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